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Press Conference by Minister Saito (Excerpt)

*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building


Opening Remarks

Response to the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake

To begin, I would like to mention two points.
First, after the cabinet meeting, I attended a meeting of the Emergency Headquarters for the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake at the Prime Minister’s Office and reported on the most up-to-date status of damage and response. Yesterday marked three weeks from the occurrence of the disaster. In order to address the concerns of the people affected by the disaster, who are facing an uncertain future, the government will implement measures to support the rebuilding of their lives and livelihoods and achieve restoration and reconstruction in addition to promoting secondary evacuation.
Regarding the rebuilding of livelihoods, after listening to voices from the frontlines the other day at the headquarters on support for the disaster-affected SMEs and small businesses, we are undertaking final coordination work related to the “livelihood subsidy” scheme that will be used for the restoration of buildings and facilities damaged by the disaster. In addition, in order to reopen sales channels for small businesses, we will publicly invite applications for the subsidy program for the business continuity of small businesses, starting this week, on January 25, without waiting for the decision on reserve funds. We will implement support measures while continuing to closely monitor the situation on the frontlines.
Regarding the status of damage, around 5,100 households remain cut off from electric power. According to Hokuriku Electric Power, power is expected to be restored to most households by the end of January except in some of the areas where access is difficult because of the ongoing restoration work following landslides or where power distribution facilities and buildings have been severely damaged due to the earthquake, tsunami, and fires.
With respect to the areas where access remains difficult, restoration work will gradually be implemented in accordance with improvement in road access to the necessary work locations. At the same time, we will promote power supply in ways that suit the needs of the frontlines, for example by deploying power source vehicles, while taking local governments’ requests into account.
Regarding fuels, it has been confirmed that the number of service stations operating has increased to 56, an increase of three from last week. In preparation for snowfall expected to start today, we are also developing a system to secure necessary fuels in cooperation with the local communities, for example by making advance deliveries of heating oil and diesel oil for use at shelter facilities.
Regarding the supply of goods to the disaster-affected areas and shelter facilities, we are continuously supplying daily necessities, such as paper dishes and disposable chopsticks, due to the elongation of stays at shelter facilities. In addition, in light of the growing need for laundry-related goods, we have started to procure 40 units each of washing machines and driers for use in Anamizu Town.
As for temporary toilet facilities, 957 facilities, including those installed by the government, have been installed, and additional 60 or more are scheduled to be delivered. At the same time, we will continue to carefully respond to requests from the frontlines, for example by also supplying goods to make life more convenient.
Through those activities, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is supporting the people affected by the disaster and will continue to do its utmost to respond to the disaster.

Credit Guarantee Scheme

Second, regarding financing for small and medium-size enterprises, on March 15, we will start accepting applications for a credit guarantee scheme that eliminates the need for the provision of guarantee by business owners on the condition of the payment of an extra guarantee fee. On February 16, we will start advance examination to confirm the requirements. This new scheme is intended to change the current situation, in which 70% of the loans with credit guarantee still require the provision of guarantee by business owners under the existing credit scheme that are used by 40% of all SMEs. By promoting this scheme in combination with the three-year provisional measure to reduce the payment burden of guarantee fees, we will support the active business expansion of SMEs.
In addition, under the economic package adopted in November last year, it has been decided to implement a measure to reduce the burden of interest payments on business operators with lower profits with respect to subordinated loans of a capital-like nature provided by Japan Finance Corporation and other institutions, and this measure will be applied starting on February 16. We would like to provide meticulous support for users’ recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
I would appreciate media organizations’ understanding of the purpose of the new scheme and cooperation in raising awareness for the scheme.
As for support measures for the business operators affected by the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake, we have taken measures such as reducing the interest rates on disaster restoration loans provided by Japan Finance Corporation. Under the economic package to support the lives and livelihoods of the people affected by the disaster, which is scheduled to be worked out in the coming days, we would like to launch enhanced support measures.
That is all I have to say.

Last updated:2024-01-23